April 16, 2014

Our Ancient Greece Unit Study

I don't share every single unit study or art project or book we read in our homeschool, but sometimes there's things that are just way too good not to share...our Ancient Greece unit study is one of those.  We had so much fun learning about Ancient Greece and my kids worked so hard on projects and stretching their brains.
We use The Story of the World for history as our "spine." We follow this book's table of contents to keep us on track.  I skip a lot of chapters in this book.  Usually, I have a plan of big unit studies I want to do throughout the year and a lot of the chapters in Story of the World don't fit with the study, so we skip those.  We do listen to the CD with the lessons that go along with our units and use the map work and the coloring sheets and put all that, with other maps and worksheet type things we do, in a history binder.  Each kid has their own.
We have already been through the ancients in our homeschool, so this is round two.  Since Noah is a middle schooler and seeing this all for the second time, I try to make things a little more challenging for him.  I gave him a packet called "Great Greeks" while I worked on some other books with the younger two.  Noah had an assignment every day that he had to do.  He worked independently and studied many of the "great Greeks" like Socrates and Archimedes. He read, wrote a short report, put together a display board showcasing three of his favorites, and he made a planetary model for the great Greek that discovered there was more than one planet.

Greek myths was another awesome part of our study.  The kids loved reading Greek myths, especially Jack.  He knows pretty much everything an 8-year-old could know about Greek mythology.  He and Sophie made this family tree for the Greek god family.

So much of what we say and do now is based on Greek mythology.  We read countless stories about the gods.  Some of our favorites were:
we also read
The Odyssey as part of this study too. 
Next is Alexander the Great.  We spent a good two weeks on Alexander the Great.  We read John Gunther's book Alexander the Great and it was a fabulous spine to our sub-study.  After the first few chapters, I had the boys sketch out maps of what would be Alex's territory and as we read, we followed his route on their maps with a tiny little black horse, Bucephalus, that we printed out and laminated. 
Besides the maps, we made posters of the Gifts of Greece...their art, view on politics, music, and other amazing things that they have influenced in modern times.  I also had the kids act out a skit, pretending to be Alexander, Queen Olympias, and King Phillip III.  I thought my kids would hate this, but they did so well and it was so awesome to see them do this!  The things they learned is definitely engrained after acting it out.

When we read The Iliad, they kids made a model of the Trojan Horse.  Basically just a triangle of cardboard with popsicle sticks on top and then painted.  The coolest though, is that there really is a secret compartment for the "Greeks" to hide.  Its a really fun piece to have on our history shelf now.

Here's a couple other books that we read a lot...

We had so much fun studying Greece.  Now we're on to Rome and the pressures on to make this unit really fun too.  Not sure we can top it, but we'll try our best.  We are working on a Coliseum model right now. (Can you tell my favorite part of school is history?? :))
If you have any questions about unit studies, I would be happy to try and answer!
Happy learning, folks!

April 14, 2014

Sewing Spring Shorts

Good Monday mornin', folks.  I'm drinking coffee and getting set for a new week, but I wanted to share these spring sewing projects before I forget.  A few weeks ago, the sewing bug bit me big time at the exact same time I organized Sophie's dresser drawers and realized she had not one pair of shorts for spring.  Not one.  I did a quick search on some of my favorite sewing blogs and I found this pattern.  It was great because the pattern was for one pair of shorts, four or more ways.  I chose to sew the girls each a few pairs.  Sophie got 2 pairs of flat front and two pairs of racer shorts and Vera got two pairs of racers.  I also sewed up a couple simple skirts as well and I have cut out a maxi dress and an Easter dress for Sophie that are still not sewn yet....this week!
Ok, here goes.  A few pair of our spring shorts...

At first, I thought these looked a little like Pinocchio, but they ended up being so cute on.  Little knobby knees...I love it :)

I ended up making one pair of matching shorts and I love them! So easy to sew....and fast to whip out several pairs really quickly! I want to make more!!

Have a great Monday!

April 11, 2014

Whole 30 Menu Plan

Let me start by saying, this is the roughest and most simple Whole 30 menu plan ever.  Also, this is plan has a few discrepancies, which we'll discuss in a sec.  Another also, this is for my friend, who twisted my arm to do this post.  I was going to let this one slip under the radar, but I thought, "hey, somebody might benefit from this post." So I did it.

I'm doing Whole 30 again.  I did my first one last July and it was so good.  Even though I've pretty much stuck to clean/paleo eating since then, many things have slipped back in occasionally and I needed a challenge.  But (and here's where the discrepancies come in), I am so super busy.  Like really.  Everyday I'm running like crazy. I decided I couldn't do the super duper strict Whole 30 like its meant to be: no weighing yourself and no honey are the two rules I'm breaking.  I'm ok with breaking a couple rules right now...its just my season of life.  Nothings going to be perfect.  Right now I'm on day 19 of eating super clean paleo.  I've had some slips, due to under planning, but I'm adding days on to the end to make up for my slips.  Ugh.

I know a lot of people are trying Whole 30 or dipping their toes into the paleo world, so I thought I'd sure my simple Whole 30/paleo menu plan that I've been using.  I wrote out several breakfasts and lunches that would be easy for me to fix for myself.  And then I wrote out 15 of my favorite paleo dinners and thought I could just make each one twice.  So I'll give you my list and links to recipes and then I'll have a printable menu plan you can print out and use if you want!

Here goes:

Sweet Potato Hash: this is really simple if you already have leftover sweet potatoes.  And I'm sure you will if you're eating paleo meals.  Sweet potatoes are pretty much a staple.
Scrambled Eggs with fruit
Fried Eggs over Sautéed Veggies
Sausage and Fruit
Muffins and Fruit: Our favorite is Banana from Against All Grains. SO good.
Banana Pancakes: This is also from Against All Grains and this is something that I'd only make once or twice per month.

Ok, before I talk about lunch, I just have to give you this recipe for homemade mayo.  I make this every week or so and its a staple for me for good lunches.  I can make so much with it. 
Tuna Salad on greens
Egg Salad on greens
Skinny Chicken Salad: I just use the homemade mayo instead of yogurt
Leftovers: make more food than you normally would for dinner.  Those leftovers are handy!
Chef's Salad: Whatever veggies you have over greens with sliced boiled eggs and leftover chicken is really good.  I usually mix up a quick vinaigrette.  My favorite is: A bit of olive oil, a bit less balsamic vinegar, crushed garlic clove, salt and pepper, and about a tsp of Dijon mustard.  So good!
Apple Bacon Salad: Seriously the best thing ever for lunch.  Ever.

1. Chicken Marsala
2. Pulled Pork: No recipe.  I just take a pork roast and roast it with onions and a little water at about 325* for several hours.  We usually have green beans and mashed sweet potatoes with this.
3. Grilled Sausage and Veggies: No recipe again.  Just good sausages and peppers and onions.  Simple and delish.
4. Beef + Kale Stir Fry: My kids loved this.  That should tell you something.
5. Spaghetti + Spaghetti Squash: This is so so good.  No recipe.  Just make your meat like you normally would.  Check sauces because most of them have sugar.  I just make my own usually and I just wing it...crushed tomatoes, some tomato paste, and loads of herbs and onion and garlic.  Then I roast the squash with a little butter and salt and pepper.  "Noodles" like you've never had.  I seriously don't care if I never have pasta again.  I'm not even kidding.
6. Meatloaf and Mashed Cauliflower: Just use your normal meatloaf recipe, but use tomato sauce instead of ketchup if you use that and use almond flour instead of regular flour.  For the mashed cauliflower: roast some garlic and steam a couple heads of cauliflower.  Mash it all together with salt and pepper. 
7. Honey + Lime Tilapia: Use almond flour for the regular flour.
8. Taco Salad: Just make your taco meat and serve over greens.  Top with tomatoes, onions, and avocadoes. AND don't forget this Avocado Dressing.  Its soooo good! And great with veggies too.
9. Chicken Wings: For real.  Get a bag of plain frozen chicken wings and roast them.  Usually takes an hour.  Now go throw them on the grill so they get a char goin' on.  Now toss them in some Frank's hot sauce.  Serve with veggies.
10. Roast Beef
11. Rotisserie Chicken from the grocer: Mama's gotta live, yo.
12. Grilled Steak and Asparagus and salad
13. Garlic Chicken Legs: My kids love chicken legs.  Just buy a bag of frozen plain chicken legs.  Put them in a roasting dish, drizzle with olive oil, and add tons of garlic cloves.  Roast for about an hour.  Serve with salad.
14. Balsamic Tilapia
15. Creamy Pesto "Pasta"

If you like this menu and want to print it out:

Also, a couple more things:
I have already lost about 6 pounds so far and this is really encouraging.  But it could also be really discouraging too if I hadn't.  Just remember your scale isn't the boss of you.  A lot of times, we lose flabbiness and stuff but the scale doesn't move.  Its true.  Don't let that deter you from eating healthy.

Another thing is, follow @jennaskitchen on Instagram.  She has great ideas for meals and just general encouragement everyday.  She's a great one to follow.

Last, don't freak out if this is hard.  It is hard.  Eating well takes effort.  Plan as well as you can.  Make sure you have lots of veggies and meats in your freezer and fridge.  Take small steps.

Hope you picked something up from this today.  I just wanted to encourage anyone else out there doing this challenge! How about it? Is anyone doing the challenge?? Do tell!

April 10, 2014

Five Things I Learned This Year at Homeschool Conferences

I have had the luck of going to not one, but two homeschool conferences this year.  I know to non-homeschoolers this might sound like a bore-fest of a bunch of moms in denim jumpers...but not so! For us weirdo moms that love to teach our kids at home, this is a paradise.  Not only are there aisles and aisles of booths filled with books to smells and hug and buy, I have loved going to these conferences for the last several years because you walk away with so many great tools to use.  I always leave refreshed and ready to implement our homeschool with new ideas I've learned.  This year I went to the Great Homeschool Convention in Greenville, SC and also the Teach Them Diligently conference in Spartanburg, SC. 
I learned so much and filled half a notebook with notes of great ideas and inspiration, I couldn't not share with you.  But since writing it all here would be ridiculous, I boiled it down to five things I learned this year at homeschool conferences.
1. Squeeze the joy out of every learning experience. Yes, really.  We have the unbelievable opportunity to not only teach our kids, but to learn alongside them.  Not every day is going to be fun and fabulous, but even if its not, we can squeeze the joy out of every experience.  All people learn differently, but most of us learn from a whole bunch of different ways.  Have fun experimenting with different ways of learning.
Carol Barnier is hands down one of the best speakers I've heard on homeschooling.  She has so many ideas to pass on, my head nearly explodes from her...in a good way.  But she said this: Experiment learning in a number of ways.  YOU are the keeper of the keys.  Find the right one that works for your child.  Like history for example, use many learning styles to teach...books, movies, projects, acting out scenes in history, dressing like a person in history, make a timeline, write poems, create art...you get the idea. 
Carol sells this book, which is my favorite source for homeschool ideas and also THIS CD which has a ton of what she calls "ditty bugs," little rhymes put to song to help kids memorize.  We love this!
Squeeze the joy, its there.

2. My kids will get all A's. But not how you'd think.  People sometimes assume that either all homeschool kids are just instantly brainiacs or that we do our kids' work for them and coax them along, which in turn, produces straight A's for all homeschoolers forever.  That's not the truth.  What I learned this weekend is that our kids should get all A's in our homeschool, but not because we give them the answers, but because we strive for mastery of each subject before moving on.  We have the luxury of taking 6 months on fractions if one of our kids needs to.  We don't have to move on until he's mastered it.  So yes, that child will earn straight A's on math, but only because we've given him the time to master it.  I loved that.
3. I must be intentional.  I mean, I know this.  But sometimes we just need a reminder.  I went to several of Crystal Paine's sessions.  You might know her from Money Saving Mom.  I loved what she had to say in each of her sessions.  She talked about organizing your meals, creating easier grocery errands and in turn saving money on food.  I know that planning your meals is essential for busy homeschool moms, but I've been slacking big time and I've been paying for it.  Um, its 5:30 and we're going to eat cereal.  Again.  Ugh. 
She talked a lot about freezer meals and stashing meals away for days when dinner is just not going to get done that day.  Things like: making four pounds of taco meat instead of two to put two in the freezer.  Also, making cookie dough and freezing it in balls for days you want a quick treat.  Some websites for ideas she quoted were:
 Also she talked about having your kids do chores to lighten your work load.  How making your kids do chores is not mean, but its teaching them life lessons they'll have forever.  Everything she talked about in this session just reiterated what I have been doing with my kids, but actually inspired me to have them help even more.  Like having Noah prepare lunch during the week.  Lunch has always been a super hard time, we're just getting done with school and everyone is starving.  But since Noah is done before Jack and Sophie most days, he can start on lunch and lessen that chaos.  Winning!!
4. Homeschooling is Notoriously Forgiving and Efficient. Really this is so true.  So many times we get stuck on our lesson plan and if we stray, we freak out.  If fractions really do take six months instead of six weeks, we are then "behind" and feeling like our children will be failures because this setback has then prevented us from learning about quadratic equations seven semesters down the road.  But really homeschooling is notoriously forgiving and efficient.  We can "mess up" on so many things, and really our kids do turn out ok.  We might feel like we're behind, but there really is no behind in homeschooling.  Educating this way allows us to let our kids really learn at their own pace.  And that's pretty awesome.
5. A Failure to Learn is a Failure to Teach.  This last point was the one that struck me the deepest.  Really mamas, we are the educators.  It is our duty to teach our children.  Our kids should not feel bad for "not getting it."  They should feel free to tell us that they don't get it when they don't.  We cannot get angry or frustrated if our child is not understanding something, because really, its just our failure to teach.  I don't like using the word "failure" because it sounds so permanent and overly finalized, but that just means that we have not found the right KEY that our child needs to learn that particular thing.  We need to go out and find that right key that will make it click.  Whether its spelling words or 8's facts or writing B's, there is another way to teach it that your child will understand.  They can't teach themselves.  Yes, its a big responsibility.  A huge responsibility.  But I just think there's lots of grace in point 4 and we'll all be ok in the end.  And there's a whole lot of joy to be found in the looking for that right key.

So many great things to implement in our school days.  I took pages and pages of notes and snapped them all into my handy dandy Homeschool Binder so I can look at them over and over. Only a few weeks left for us...six to be exact.  Teach them well, mamas, and have a great school day! :)

April 8, 2014

Favorites Lately

This was supposed to be Friday's post, Friday's Favorites, but now it's just Favorites Lately.  I haven't gotten as much time lately to sit and write with baseball, ballet, school, babies, and all the other stuff that comes with life, but I'll take what little time I get these days.  So here I am at 10pm with my cup of sleepytime tea.  I think I might just add this moment to my list.  Other than right now, here's some of my favorites lately:

Baseball games.  This is a double edged sword, an exciting and nail biting new venture that the boys are loving.  But on the other side, its caused many a late night and every game is potential for me to make a fool of myself with my guttural sounds and fist biting.  "Just let his coach tell him, Alicia." says Jarrod out of the corner of his mouth. 

Ya.  Right.

The little uniforms and the "Let's GO, Ja-ack, let's GO!!" with clapping is too much fun.  And I'm working on a balance of encouragement/cheering/gently correcting/and not falling off the bleachers with mad-crazy-mama cheering.  This is a difficult balance, folks.  But I did notice, that even with the older boys...every single time, those boys looked over at the bleachers to their mamas.  "Did she see me?? Did she see?"  Oh yes, baby.  We saw.  And we're so freakin' proud.

Organized spaces.  I should say: spaces I organized over a week ago that have stayed organized.  Glory! I don't want to name names, but one of my daughters that is six-years-old, is quite a pack rat.  As in, if there's an old receipt or a tag from new clothing, its probably stuffed in one of the 12,043 bags in her closet along with 34,875 other receipts and tags that she swiped and stuffed in there.  I pulled out everything from her closet, purged, organized, and put it all back in and it has actually stayed put.  This is what I would call a miracle.  Vera was watching.  She thinks its a miracle too.  And she wanted to put all those receipts in her mouth.

Farm field trips.  We visited a friend of a friend's farm yesterday and there truly is nothing like the farm in the spring.  Chicks and baby goats...we even saw a chick pecking her way out of the shell.  I mean, come on.  That's pretty awesome.

The novice seamstress.  So she's been begging me for a sewing machine and I thought, "hey, just learn on mine, how 'bout that?" So she did.  I sewed up my spring sewing pile of shorts and skirts and she took the scraps, cut them, pieced them together, bound them up, and finished them off into a fabulous mini quilt for her doll friends.  It took all afternoon and she never got tired once.  I see this being the first of many sewing endeavors.  

She wanted to make sure this was going to make the blog.  She was so proud, she wanted everyone to see :)

 Spring sewing.  I got all the boys' shorts out last week, but Sophie had not one pair that still fit her.  I need to buy a few more pair, but I also had a major itch to start sewing again.  Its been too long! I sewed up four pair for her and two for Vera and also a couple of skirts for Sophie.  These all turned out so cute, I'll have to post them in a fashion show format for y'all.  Super simple sewing is my favorite.  Little effort with a lot of payoff.
The clap.  I mean...the cute baby kind where everything can be solved with the clap.  Did you just tip over that plant and smear dirt all over? Vigorous clapping.  Did you just rip a page out of that library book? More vigorous clapping. Are you eating paper again? Yep.  More clapping.  Favorite.

April Fools.  So supposedly, these twerps sat up planning this, but he was so cute doing it and he got me so good, it was still a favorite.  The stinker put lemon juice in my morning coffee when I was so oblivious.  They laughed all day.  April Fools.  Favorite.

Happy day, friends.
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