Saturday, June 30, 2012

Choose Peace...

Reprinted from Lee Binz is the Homescholar and is a wonderful resource for homeschooling high school, getting into college and more!! This is a wonderful article. Hope you enjoy it too!!

Are you the parent scrambling frantically to finish every problem in every book before you can relax for the summer? I encourage you to focus on “choosing peace.” Look at each thing you are trying to finish.

 Does it need to be done? If you are 80% done with the book, that should be enough. Public schools finish 80% to finish the subject, and so can you.

Does it impact your mental health? Weigh the pros and cons of finishing up. Sometimes subjects do urgently need attention, but sometimes it’s not required for your high school credit, and the cost is enormous stress. Weigh the pros and cons!

If something does need to be done this summer, try to have your children work independently. Independently means you don’t teach them, they learn on their own. If you need some accountability, have them show you their work from across the room, if necessary.

One mother told me her son had avoided math most of the school year and was hopelessly behind – that’s a good reason to continue math during the summer. Only do one lesson per day, not two! Choose peace!

One mother was stressed about starting Latin during the summer. Nope – not worth the stress! Unless you desperately need foreign language credits, choose peace! Skip that during the summer.

A dad asked about reading. Summer is a great time to snuggle up with a book, but don’t worry about literary analysis. Grab books from my College Bound Reading List. Save those library receipts! That’s how you’ll collect all the information for the reading list for the coming year. Choose peace, and just enjoy reading this summer.

Parents often ask about SAT preparation in the summer. I love doing a little SAT prep each day, to keep the skills fresh. It doesn’t require parental supervision – it’s really like a high school level workbook! Sure, do some SAT prep during the summer. Keep it small, just one section per day, so kids don’t rebel. Choose peace – one section per day is only 1/2 hour, not too bad!

Summer is important. Remember to take a break. Think balance. Weigh what is important. Choose peace!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Feast of Sts. Peter & Paul...

Troparion - Tone 4

First-enthroned of the apostles,
teachers of the universe:
Entreat the Master of all
to grant peace to the world,
and to our souls great mercy!

All night vigil. St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, Tacoma, WA

Kontakion - Tone 2
Today Christ the Rock glorifies with highest honor
The rock of Faith and leader of the Apostles,
Together with Paul and the company of the twelve,
Whose memory we celebrate with eagerness of faith,
Giving glory to the one who gave glory to them!

Blessed Feast Day to you all!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Creating your own curriculum...

HAVE YOU EVER CONSIDERED putting together your own curriculum? I know many shy away from it because of the uncertainty of providing enough information at the right level for your student. But I say that you are totally cable of creating your own curriculum. I think we are all accustom to beautiful texts and lots of "meaty" books to fill out our work for the year to ensure that we are truly educating our students. However, when you focus on text books are your students really learning? Or enjoying what they are learning. Don't get me wrong there is a place for a boxed curriculum such as Sonlight, Konos, Calvert and the like. I have used them myself when I have been expecting a baby or just plain didn't want to think to hard about planning my school year.

If you'd like to save some money, as we all need to these days, creating your own curriculum can be a great way to go about it. I do always purchase a math and grammer, but depending on the age of the students history, science, geography and just about anything else you'd like to study can be created from your interests, libraries and the web. Before I give you a check list, especially if you're new to homeschooling, I always suggest checking out your states laws regarding homeschooling. Depending on what they require, they may give you a frame work to get started. You can check out your state at Homeschool Legal Defense. They offer a plethora of information if you're just getting started or need more information as your children get older.

  1. First I begin with a time-line or some sort of map as to where we want to go with our study. A great time-line  is Adams's Chart of History. What makes this such a wonderful resource is that it has a parallel time line for modern, biblical, etc. Lots of references!! A great place to begin.
  2. Once I have my time-line or section of study then I search the library and web for resources. Often times I start at Amazon for their wide selection even if I don't purchase from there.
  3. I also look through boxed curriculum catalogs to see what they offer for the age range I'm schooling. I particularly like Sonlight for reading lists. I'm not always good at choosing reading level appropriate novels. They have wonderful, well rounded reading lists.
  4. Next I get out my calendar and plot out approxamatley we will spend on each area of study. I say approxamatley because sometimes we get really into what we are studying and maybe get lost down a bunny trail or two and get off our schedule. For me that's the beauty of homeschooling and when we do our best learning during these times.
  5. Last don't worry if you are getting enough in!!! I know lots of families that hesitate to create their own learning plan because they are not sure their children are learning enough. Well, as someone who has been homeschooling for 10+ years. Don't worry! You are probably doing more learning on your worst days then they'd get in school and they are probably retaining WAY more!!!!
Have confidence in your ability to teach or share a LOVE OF LEARNING and the rest will follow. I believe feeding curiosity is more important than busy work and "things accomplished". Learning is what stays in your brain, not always what you spit out onto a page. I passed many exams in school, with good grades even. But I don't always remember today what I was supposed to have learned.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Harvard and Homeschooling

Reposted from Homeschool Inc. I found this an interesting read, I hope you will too!

Harvard and Homeschooling  By Virginia Vagt

The words "Harvard" and "college" definitely go together.

No matter what we may know about Harvard we know these two things: Harvard is a college, and Harvard offers highly valued credentials. This year both the United States' Presidential candidates have a Harvard degree, and one of them has two Harvard degrees.

But, do the words "Harvard" and "homeschooling" go together?

Both start with the letter "H," but more to the point, during the last 25 years Harvard has been quite public about their acceptance of homeschooled applicants.

In 1989, after three sons in a row from the un-schooling Colfax family of California had been accepted, The Harvard Crimson (the nation's oldest continuously published daily college newspaper) ran a profile article on Grant, Drew, and Reed Colfax. The article, Homeschoolers Are At Home at Harvard, March 16, 1989, included positive comments from Harvard Dean of Admissions, William Fitzsimmons: On the whole, homeschooling is an educational asset that Harvard considers favorably when making its admissions decisions. One often sees a self-reliance and independence, as well as intellectual curiosity in people with usual educational experiences. Homeschooled students, he added, do just as well as most all students who come here do.Since then and every few years (including this year) The Harvard Crimson runs a profile on current Harvard students who were homeschooled. On January 27, 2012, The Harvard Crimson ran this article: Freshman O'Dorney Juggles Math and Music, featuring Evan M. O'Dorney, homeschooler and Harvard class of 2015.

We can also appreciate Harvard not only for accepting homeschooled students and letting us know about it, but also for wise advice offered to families and students as they prepare for college. The Harvard pamphlet, Preparing for College, guides students in high school academics and affirms the idea that academic achievement is not an end in itself. A good high school education should do more than prepare you for the next level of education or for later employment -- it should prepare you to take advantage of future learning opportunities of all kinds.

In Taking Time Off, Harvard affirms the value of living a balanced life while pursuing learning, a value which homeschooling families appreciate. Their strategies include taking real breaks from the intense pursuit of academic achievement such as taking real vacations, having weekends, relaxed mealtimes, and encouraging families to "Bring Summer Back." More advice in: Time Out or Burn Out for the Next Generation, by Dean of Admissions, William R. Fitzsimmons, Marlyn E. McGrath, Director of Admissions, Harvard College and Charles Ducey, Adjunct Lecturer in Psychology, Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Good advice for all students, whether or not Harvard-bound.

* The Colfax family described their home education path in their 1988 book, Homeschooling for Excellence. Updates on the family: Their first Harvard son, Grant, won a Fulbright Scholarship, graduated from Harvard Medical School, and practices medicine as an infectious disease specialist. After Harvard Drew earned a JD from Michigan and an MD from Harvard Medical School. Adopted son, Reed, graduated from Harvard, earned a JD from Yale, and now specializes in civil rights litigation. Fourth son Garth, though not a Harvard graduate designs websites, repairs computers, and works with developmentally disabled people.

Virginia Vagt is a writer, speaker, editor and 13-year veteran homeschooling mom. Click here to read selections from Vagt's Be Encouraged column or, for additional resources, visit

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Mythology vs. Reality...

IT'S FUNNY TO ME how we all tend to judge books by their cover. On our last library visit my 5 year old picked a few books that featured knights and mythical creatures on the cover. While I tend to look over their choices, I am sometimes suprised when we get home.

Last night we read Behold...the Unicorns!and as I was reading I discovered this is not a "story" book. Instead it is a book about the lore of unicorns. Since we are beginning our study of the anceints it kind of fit right in with what we are doing. For me it was the Europen mythology vs. Greek mythology. I think we all learned something from this little book.

Maybe you reading this post were familiar with this, but I didn't know that there were christian teachings about unicorns or that there were stories about them not making it on Noah's boat so they died in the flood. I guess I just always put unicorns in the category of mythical creatures and left it at that. They are equal in my mind to greek mythology. This little children's book has left me wanting to research more.

Reading is such a powerful medium. That's why I'm always on top of what my kids are reading and the sources they are coming from. The timing of when a child is exposed to a thought or theory is so important. I've heard some say, "it's just a kid's book, how harmful can that be?" Sometimes things are not "harmful" and sometimes they are, but this book got me thinking again about how we teach certain things.

When my oldest was much younger he loved dragons. He love the imagery and anything pertaining to them. We would talk about how dragons were mythical creatures and not real, only for him to ask one day, "What about St. George?" That question began a whole conversation about what is real. Just like this book has again. How do you answer those questions for your children? How do you separate imagery from reality? Some times it's tricky.

Had they just left the unicorns with knights and the typical depiction I would have been just fine, but when they included Noah and stories from the bible I was in the odd place again. What's real and what's imagery. Guess it's just all food for thought.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Berry Time...

ONE OF THE BEST things about summer is all of the fruit that's available!! Living here in Washington strawberry season is so wonderful!! We have lots of berry stands around and getting those first berries of the season is just heaven!

In our home I have to purchase the large container of whipping cream from Costco to satisfy everyone's need for cream. I think some times the berries are just an excuse to eat lots of cream!! "Let's have some berries with our cream please". Half our household likes whipped cream and then the other half just likes the simple pouring of cream on the berries. I guess I get that from growing up in England. It's amazing to me more folks don't eat it that way, but I for one LOVE it!!

Getting berries, walking around the farmer's markets...I just love summer! Now if the weather here would cooperate it would be great. I guess I'll just have to wait for July 4th. For us Washingtonians that's the real start of summer.

In other news... As some of you know I took on "getting crafty" this year and since January I've been making quilt tops like a crazy woman. Well, now that I've learned how to bind, I can now start finishing my tops. So this is the latest of my creations.

If you like the design you too can make a "twister" quilt. I made my first one from the book Let's Twist... Again and found it so fun I've made more of my own design. The tool you use is Lil Twister Pinwheel Quilt Template 5" Squares. You'll have to give a try!! It's really fun and the end result is quite amazing!!

Thursday, June 21, 2012


I am sharing this from Abbot Tryphon is the Abbot of All-Mericful Saviour Orthodox men's monastery on Vashon Island in Washington State. It was just what I needed to read today. Sometimes as a mom, prayer times are chaotic at best. While I have my own prayer time, there are times I feel just to tired to be motivated. This was a wonderful post to read! I hope it blesses your day. 
When Prayer Becomes Dry

When we find ourselves struggling with prayer, and feel that it has become dry and lifeless, we are sometimes tempted to stop praying. When our prayer has become a struggle, it is good to remember that God knows our needs, and even knows what we want to say when we don't seem to know. This is the time we need to just pray without worrying about it. When we find we... can't keep our minds focused on the formal morning and evening prayers, as found in our prayer book, it is perfectly acceptable to simply light our lampada (hanging oil lamp), sit quietly before our icons, and let silence be our voice.

God wants to enter into our heart, and requires only our permission and cooperation. This relationship does not require an emotional response, for, like all relationships, we are not always open to an emotional response. Being real with God is far more important than being emotional, since emotions can be contrived and fleshly. As in all relationships, there are times when we do feel moved by emotions, but the lack of such feelings in no way represents a lack of love for God, because God cares for us, and God knows we love him, even when suffering in those dry time.

With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

Spicy Lentils...

TODAY IN THE KITCHEN we have another fasting recipe. I know many folks have a problem with lentils and legumes, but I think if you introduce them slowly into your diet your body can get used to the amount of fiber. I think often times we don't eat enough fiber and then we get to the fast and our body is just not used to the amount of fiber in the fasting diet.

This one that my family enjoys and works during the summer and winter. It's pretty quick and easy and very tasty. I'm sure there are probably as many "dahl" recipes as there are people, but this is mine.

I begin with all my veggies and spices and prepare them to make things easy. While I'm making the lentils I am cooking rice in my rice cooker. In a medium to large sauce pan I put about two table spoons of veggie oil. Just as that's heating I add in the mustard seeds. As they start to flutter I add the onion and saute for a few minutes on medium high heat, then add the garlic, jalapenos, ginger, and spices. (NOTE: be sure not to heat the mustard seeds too much or you'll have them popping out of the pan like popcorn and when they hit you they burn!! I found this out the hard way! So be ready with the other ingredients to prevent this.)

Once I get everything in I saute it all a few minutes so it comes together. Then I add one 16 oz can of chopped tomatoes. Then I add my red lentils and 4 or 5 cups of water. I say red lentils because I find I don't have to soak them before and they cook quickly. Once this starts to simmer put a lid on and turn it down medium/low heat, on my stove that's between 2 and 3. Be sure to check it every so often as the lentils can tend to stick. Add water as needed. You want to keep water covering the lentil mixture until they begin to get tender.

Once the lentils are tender you're in business! I serve this over rice with a bit of cilantro as a garnish. Yum!

The Recipe
1 med onion chopped                                  1 med jalapeno chopped
2 Tbsp minced ginger                                  2 med cloves of garlic minced
1 Tbsp whole mustard seeds                         salt to taste
1 Tbsp ground coriander                              1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 16 oz can chopped tomatoes w/liquid
2  cups red lentils, rinsed                               4 to 5 cups of water
chopped cilantro for garnish       

TIP OF THE DAY: Storing fresh ginger to last! Do you ever buy a piece of ginger root and before you know it, it's shriveled up and really not usable. Well, if you get a mason jar peel your ginger and place it in the jar and fill with vodka, yes vodka! It will stay fresh forever and you'll never be out of fresh ginger again!!                                        

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Mommy time...

ISN'T IT JUST HARD TO get any time to yourself?? I have to say now that I have four children the thing I crave the most at the end of the day is quiet. Blissful silence. I can remember as a teen and young adult I loved noise. I always had music playing or some sort of noise in the background. Boy, have things changed. There are times when I'm driving in the car by myself I don't even turn the radio on. I love the funny stories and crazy things my kiddos say, don't get me wrong, but by the end of the day I just crave silence.

When I was a young mom I really never got any time to myself. I had a high-need child and he was extremely hard to leave with anyone. Consequently, "mommy time" was unheard of. By the time my oldest was old enough to not be quite as needy, I was having number two. I didn't really get a chance to explore time to myself and develop any interests apart from mothering.

While I was pregnant with number three, I was the only prosphora baker in our little mission. Trying to get all the little loaves made with small children under foot was a challenge to say the least. In our mission we only used the Russian style loaves, which are far more time consuming than the larger Greek style loaves. So during that time, my wonderful hubby would take the two boys out for a four hour window of time, so I could get my baking done. It was WONDERFUL!!! Four whole hours to myself, it was such a blessing.

At the beginning of this year, I was contemplating all the ways I have changed by becoming a mother. I guess having a daughter has made me revisit my femininity. What kind of mother did I want to be for my daughter? While I always did things with the boys, I wasn't what you'd consider "crafty". But I do have a desire to create. I've always wanted to be crafty, but have just never spent the time developing it. That is until now.

The table topper I completed today.
In November my hubby bought me a new sewing machine for Christmas and since then I've been taking all kinds of quilting classes. I have fallen in love with quilting. Creating useful, pretty things. I have made several quilt tops since the beginning of the year and I am now working through finishing them up. Here's the next one I'm working on.

Then I'll be starting a whole new project from my Thimbleberries class. We are making projects from the Thimbleberries Pattern Party: 12 Months of Quilting and Party Treats book. I am really excited about our next project. I just love these fabrics.

The bottom line here is that "mommy time" is important. You may be in a season of life where it is more challenging to get mommy time, but making it happen can make all the difference. Since I do spend 24/7 with my kiddos, having these breaks to explore interests feeds who I am as a person. Not just a mom. It also allows me to appreciate my children so much more when we are together. I love including them in what I learn and it affords them avenues to explore. Mommy time it's a good thing!!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Library day...

DON'T YOU JUST love the library? I do, and I love the wonder of my children when they discover a new book. We visit the library each week, but today I discovered a new area in the children's section. There were all sorts of fairy tale books from all over the world. My son, who love knights, found several books to delight his fancy!!

This evening at bedtime we read a story from China. It was a wonderful story with a great moral. It's from the book Mightier Than the Sword: World Folktales for Strong Boys. I love a good story and it's even better when it has a lesson. I also feel blessed to find this treasure. So refreshing to find good literature.

We also checked out an activity box about Knights and Dragons. So over the next few days we will probably stick with this theme and see what we can learn. The box included dress up clothes, toy dragons, small swords, and books about knights and dragons. We will be able to cover some history, possibly an art project or two. I'll probably go online to find more stuff to flesh out a "unit study". This is my favorite way do teach. Hands on and discovering things together. What a blessing!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

In the Kitchen...

I'M ALWAYS LOOKING for fasting recipes for the summer fasts. The fasts of Great Lent and Nativity are usually in a cooler time of year, so soups and bread are a great staple. However during the Apostle's Fast (which we're in now) and the Dormition Fast coming up, the weather is such that I, for one, don't appreciate a hot soup. For that reason I tend to do a lot of stir fries, but my families most favorite is Yaki Soba noodles.

This is such a quick fix and everyone loves it. Especially on a hot day. I begin with onions, garlic and whatever veggies my family likes.

I stir fry them beginning with the onions and garlic then adding the veggies that cook the longest first (like the carrots and broccoli). Then the others until they are all in. I season with our favorite stir fry sauce.

Because I don't have a large enough pan to do all the veggies and noodles at the same time, I transfer most of the veggies to a serving dish and then stir fry the noodles with some of the veggies and add more sauce. Then when things are cooked through I transfer everything to the veggies I put aside on the serving dish and mix thoroughly. Yum!!

Enjoy your day!!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

What a Week!

HAVE YOU EVER just had one of those weeks where there just wasn't enough time. Maybe that's every week for you. I've definitely gone through my fits and spurts of the that for sure!! This week we just had so many appointments and outings that I'm kind of looking forward to a slower Saturday.

This was the week to prepare for the Washington Homeschoolers Conference. I especially love attending because it's such a fun time and so encouraging. Going to the conference I get so inspired by new things and seeing faces I've not seen for a while. I hoped to have lots of photos to share, but my phone died. Sorry about that! I need a new battery!!

My hubby and my oldest are coordinating a booth for the FRC Robot they had for this year's competitions. Great fun for them and a wonderful way to spread the word about FRC.

There were lots of fabulous vendors and I saw some new curriculum out there I need to pick up. Starting over with my little ones will be a new adventure. I am really looking forward to it. I think I'm going to go with The Elegant Essay Writing Lessons: Building Blocks for Analytical Writing for my oldest. I have to say I LOVE Institute for Excellence in Writing! Their programs are wonderful and have worked WONDERS for my son!!! Then for my younger guys I think I'm going to try PAL Writing Package from IEW. Maybe if I get these guys on the right track from the start we can get writing in hand before high school!! I have my reading stuff for my younger ones that I purchased through Learning Technologies. I am excited to get going on that. Then I'll have to dig out some old stuff to do again with little guys. Love recycling that curriculum! I have almost everything we need for our next school year, so then we can just enjoy our summer!! Over all it was a wonderful conference. Another boost to get me through until next year!! Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Story Time...

I HAVE FALLEN in love with these children's books! A dear friend and godmother of my little girl gave us the first of our collection and introduced us to these lovely books. For my little girl's birthday my Dad got her a couple more and they are just so lovely I had to share.

The stories are so sweet and the illustrations are fantastic. My kids love story time and these books provide me lots of inspiration. I love fairies and all things that are "gnomish" (is that a word?). I've introduced my kids to  needle felting. First because I love felted things, but also because it is such a great fine motor activity. Knitting with some type of tower, finger knitting or needles (if your child can master them) are great for fine motor too! But making felted gnomes and fairies is fun and these books inspire me to do just that.

There is a small flower bed in my front yard that I'm planning to turn into a fairy domain. There are several books on putting Fairy House's together. I also thought it would be fun thing to do with the kids. Then I could get it weeded and beautified with their help. Aren't I sneaky! Hee! Hee!

Where do you get your inspiration? What fun things are you going to do this summer? If the sun ever visits our neck of the woods, we will be out doing our "welcome summer" dance. But even if it's gloomy we'll be out exploring because "No one cared how wet or muddy they were for no child of the forest can ever catch cold" (Children of the Forest by Elsa Beskow).

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Keeping it Real...

THE PROBLEM WITH reading blogs is that you find all these lovely, inspiring things and you may think, "Gee, how do these ladies find the time? I wish I could do more things like that. etc. etc." You can be left feeling down instead of inspired. I think most of us like the idea of being "the fly on the wall" in someone's home. To get a glimpse of what they do and how they do it. I think this is why Blogs, reality TV and the like have become so popular. Most of us just want to see or experience how others 'do it'. The thing is that when you read someone's Blog, it's just a snippet of their life. The best stuff. The successes. I mean why would I share a photo of my home in disarray? Which it IS often, since we are living with a toddler who seems to love kaos!! To her mother's chagrin! Or a photo of my children throwing a fit? Which you know happens! I mean I live with children who are 2, 5, and 7, not to mention the teen thrown into the mix. There are days that I feel like 'drama, drama every where'.

Just remember that if you were really a 'fly on the wall' you'd see ALL the facets of my life. The good, bad and the ugly. Not just the beautiful moments I want to share with you. So if you're reading this and you're just beginning to homeschool, have small children under foot, having a hard time keeping kaos from taking over your home, just remember Blogs only show what the author wants you to see. You can't see me sitting in my jammies at 1pm with hair a mess writing this blog post with children a buzz in my house, running around like Indians! Ha! Ha! We as mom's just have to be careful not to sabotage ourselves into thinking 'someone else is doing it better'. You're probably doing it just fine!! So chin up and as Dory says, 'just keep swimming'! Enjoy your day, hug your kiddos and count your blessings because you are SO blessed!!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Learning Ops Everywhere...

IT'S FUNNY NOW THAT I have this blog I'm always taking photos with my phone. Whenever we're on an outing or doing project around the house out comes the camera. I find learning opportunities every where!! With little ones it's so easy to "school" without sitting at a desk.

This week was shopping week so the little boys got to come along and help mom doing the shopping. When my oldest was little we had a garden in our back yard so we planted and grew much of our produce. Unfortunately these kids don't get that experience because we don't currently have a garden. In my attempt to get them to eat a greater variety of foods our shopping trips have become a learning time that then leads to our cooking lessons later. My only rule is that if you're going to help make something for someone to eat then the "cook" has to taste everything prepared. They wouldn't want to serve something that tastes terrible, right? These two are my most picky eaters so it's my attempt to covert them! So we go through the produce section learning about all the different kinds of fruits and veg.

We also took a trip to dad's favorite store, Cabela's. Another learning opportunity. If you've never been to a Cabela's it's quite a store. Not only do they have all the hunting, fishing, and all the things that go with that, that you'd want. They also have a large collection of taxidermy with all kinds of information about the animals and conservation. They even have an aquarium of native fish, in our region that includes salmon, among others. It's quite a treat for kids.

So where ever you go, no matter what you're doing there's probably something that can be educational. Therefore, the next time you go through your day and feel you've not accomplished anything "educational". Think again. Maybe you have!

Enjoy your day!!