Sunday, December 11, 2016

Making Gluten Free Petit Fours

Dairy Free Gluten Free

Chocolate and Cream Cheese


making chocolate gluten free petit fours

My first experience with Petit Fours was when I started dating my husband in high school and went to his house around Christmas to be offered one of these adorable little cakes from Swiss Colony, a Christmas tradition in his home.  They were so yummy it was hard to not want to eat the whole box, especially with how much more crazy my sweet tooth was back then.  7-8 years later, our toddler daughter was there, in her Little but poofy Christmas dress, eating the little cakes with such delight. I didn't know if there was anything cuter than that petit little girl eating petit little cakes. But, by the the time she was 4 we had gone gluten free and sadly no more petit fours for us.  Tradition was ruined!  Petit Fours did remain a Christmas tradition for my husband however as his parents still send him a box every Christmas (he's not gluten free). Last year I was determined to make some, as my daughter fondly remembers from when she was 3 how good they were.  I researched how to make petit fours and then attempted to make gluten free petit fours. I made a gluten free chocolate cake and dairy free coconut cream for the filling and dairy free chocolate ganache for the coating.  It was a lot of work, it was a big mess and they were as big as a hostess cupcake and tasted more like a hostess cupcake, so while it was not a complete fail as we still ate them, they were a total mess and not presentable...they were not petit fours.

This week when my husband came home from the office, he had a gold box in his hand and quickly said "don't get mad, my parents sent them to my office but don't worry they aren't that good." What he says to make our daughter feel better when she can't have something he has.  Suddenly I thought of a new way to try making gluten free petit fours and it was very quick and easy, easier than regular petit fours.  I thought of the gluten free ice cream sandwiches we made last summer using Nicole Hunn's recipe from Gluten Free on a Shoestring.  A thin, chocolate wafer/cake that is easy to make and no slicing cake into crumbly thin layers and freezing required!  (Typical part of making petit fours)

What you need:

Ice Cream Sandwich Chocolate Wafer recipe from Gluten Free on a Shoestring (HERE)
Can of pillsbury Cream Cheese Frosting (I read the label and it was dairy free-normally I would make homemade frosting to avoid the extra "ingredients" but I was tired and promised my daughter we would have girl time and make these.)
Ghiridelli Chocolate Semi-Sweet Chips (or other dairy free chocolate chips)
Dairy free milk (almond, coconut or cashew)

dairy free cream cheese frosting
(SHHHH!!!....I cheated and bought frosting when I realized it was dairy free!)


Preheat oven to 325

Make the sandwich cookie dough as directed (here)

Separate chocolate dough into 2 balls.

Place one half on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, top with another piece of parchment paper and roll out into a rectangularish shape just a little over a 1/4 inch thick.  Remove top parchment paper and if you like, trim the edges to make them straight and add the extra dough to the other ball of dough.

Repeat with the other half on another baking sheet.

Score the rolled out dough into roughly 1 inch wide strips.  (My strips were about 1 x 7 inches just depends I how you rolled it out)

Bake in preheated oven according the the sandwich cookie instructions, or until until it lightly springs back. (I ended up doubling the baking time since it was a larger mass since i wasn't cutting out cookie circles *about 14 minutes for me).

Remove from oven and allow cake to cool.

Assemble the cakes!

chocolate petit fours

Using a knife, spread some cream cheese frosting over one long strip of your chocolate cake.

Carefully pick up another strip of cake and lay in on top and then spread that layer with cream cheese frosting and then add one more strip on top of the cream cheese. You now have 3 layers of cake with 2 layers of filling.

Repeat with remaining strips until you can't make any more. If you have excess scraps of cake, just leave those out in a dish for munching.

My fun little helper...she's very involved as she plans to open her own gluten free bakery.

Now that you have some long layered strips of cake and frosting, take a sharp knife and carefully cut them into 1 inch sections creating 1 inch squares.

This looks like a mess but it was all contained within this cookie sheet and the chocolate ganache and sprinkles that fell below were also later picked at and enjoyed ;)

Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper, place a cookie rack over top and then arrange your gluten free petit fours on the cookie rack.

In a double boiler* add a bag of dairy free chocolate chips and 1/4 cup of dairy free milk.  Stir until melted.  You want the chocolate icing to be somewhat running so it's easy to spread over your cakes so if it doesn't drizzle off your spoon, add some more milk until you get the right consistency.

Using a spoon or small spatula, carefully spread the chocolate icing over the top of your petit fours, letting it drip down the side.  As it drips down the sides, using a spoon or spatula, carefully spread the chocolate icing over the sides, adding more frosting as needed and letting the excess drip down onto the baking sheet below the petit fours.  They won't all be perfect but as long as you get the tops covered well and most of the sides, that's good enough.  Then top with some sprinkles for added color and decoration and allow chocolate icing to set and then enjoy your easy gluten free dairy free petit fours!  These were much less labor intensive than making sugar cookies!!!! 

As you can see here, this was more of a challenge to make gluten free dairy free petit fours as easy as possible, and have some fun mommy daughter time, not looking for perfection. We had some that we thought looked perfect although most were not, but they all taste the same and they taste VERY yummy!

frosting for petit fours

petit cakes

*to make a double boiler, add an inch or two of water to a small pot, then place a glass Pyrex bowl over top of the pot and boil the water. Place the chocolate and milk in the glass bowl and store as it melts, this produces a smooth ganache.

*usually I like to make everything from scratch, even if it's not "healthy" it's still healthier than using anything from a package with the extra preservatives and ingredients however, as this was an experiment and I wanted it to be as easy as possible, especially if they didn't turn out, I thought a shortcut now and then ain't the worst thing in the world...besides, stress can kill you too! lol!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Gluten Free Black Bottom Banana Bars

Adapted from Taste of Home

1/2 c Earth Balance Butter
1 c organic cane sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
3 ripe bananas mashed
1 3/4 c gluten free flour baking blend such as King Arthur
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup cocoa powder (Hershey dark cocoa powder-even better)

Preheat oven to 350
Line a 9x13 with parchment paper or lightly grease.

Cream the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla in stand mixer.
Add bananas one at a time, mixer will mash them up for you as they mix in.
In separate bow mix gf flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and then add to banana mixture. Stir til just combined.

Separate half on batter into a medium size bow and add 1/4 cocoa powder and stir til combined.  

Spread the chocolate batter over bottom of pan with a spatula.

Spoon the original banana mixture over top and then use a spatula to spread over the chocolate layer.

Sprinkle top with a few chocolate chips if desired.

Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown on top and toothpick comes out clean.

Chocolate Chip Granola Bar Bites

Peanut Butter Protein Packed Cold or Frozen Chocolate Chip Granola Bar Bites or could be called Healthy Frozen Cookie Dough Bites...My family just calls them Cold Granola Balls...whatever you want to call all started during a hot Texas summer in Dallas in an apartment with very inefficient AC.  We lived on homemade granola bars but that one hot summer day I started to make my granola bars as usual and then before I could finish, just couldn't bring myself to turn on the oven.  I thought of the days I would sneak those Spunkmier cookie dough balls from my moms freezer (I think they were a fundraiser and you got a gallon size bucket with scoops of cookie dough you kept in the freezer and had cookies ready to bake at anytime.)  I used my cookie scoop and plopped the granola the bar dough onto a parchment lined cake pan and put it in the husband and I were HOOKED!  Now I form them into smaller balls by hand so they are easier for the kids to manage and keep them in the fridge or freezer.  I love freezing them and then throwing in a ziplock bag or small container when we go on hikes because they are full of protein and keep everyone going.

These are so awesome to have year round but especially great in the summertime when we crave something cold yet filling to keep us going.  These make a great protein packed breakfast on the go instead of a bowl of hot oatmeal or when you're in a hurry. Throw them in a picnic cooler and bring to the pool or lake for a great snack to keep energized and feeling satisfied instead of snacking on chips and popsicles.

After 8 years since my first time making homemade granola bars and playing around with it, here is my Cold Granola Ball Recipe.

1 1/2 c creamy peanut butter
1/2 c brown sugar
1/3 c coconut oil
1/2 c honey
1 Tbsp vanilla (or at least 2 tsp min)
3 cups oats (I use bobs red mill gluten free quick oats or gluten free rolled oats I get through Amazon)
1 cup crushed crispy cereal (such as Rice Chex or Honey Nut Cheerios or GF Crispie Cereal)
1 cup Chocolate Chips (we are dairy free and use Enjoy Life, Kirkland Semi-Sweet or the gold bag by Ghiridelli)

Optional Add Ins
You can add 1/2-1 cup of any other add ins like
1/2 c flax seed
1 c puffed millet
1 c puffed brown rice
1/2-1 c dried fruit like craisins 
1/2-1 c nuts (u would recommend they be finely chopped though if you have barge pieces of things it will be harder to shaped into balls and hold together)

Line a 9x13 inch cake pan with parchment paper or a large plastic food storage container.  If you don't line it and freeze these they can freeze to the container and be hard to remove.

Mix first 5 ingredients together til smooth.

Add in oats, crispy cereal and chocolate chips (and any optional add in if desired) and mix thoroughly.

Scoop out spoonfuls into your hand and form into balls. 

Place into prepared container, cover with plastic wrap, tin foil or container lid and then refrigerate or freeze.  These are yummy to eat frozen or just cold.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

CTC Math Review


I would love to tell you about what we have been doing for math for the past 6 months.  I had not been able to settle on any particular curriculum, even the most highly recommended Charlotte Mason style math curriculum's, while I knew they were good, just didn't seem right for us.  So we started doing a lot more living math which I wrote about here and were really enjoying doing math this way.  However, I was becoming more and more drained, not because from doing living math, but my health was just not keeping up and then I started really dropping the ball. I didn't know for some time, but I was very anemic and very low on vit D and just felt like I was dying.  

I didn't have the energy to plan and prepare the fun, engaging living math fun that we were finding so rewarding. I wanted to keep doing living math activities, but I felt like I needed something more stable and structured than what I was doing, yet still gentle and not stress inducing. So I went back to searching my top choices.  One that I kept coming back to was CTC Math. My husband and I were hesitant about doing an online math program, especially after doing math in such a hands-on way AND being very Charlotte Mason, Waldorf, Nature Inspired in our homeschool, we just weren't sure about doing math on the computer or ipad.  

The kids and I were traveling to visit family for 2.5 weeks, so I decided to do the free trial as our math while we were away and now here I am writing a ha;f a year later.  My son (K) was so excited by the certificates, he really thrived on the structure of the program and was motivated to plow through it. He thought is was fun and just took off and is almost a full grade level ahead now. He would ask me if he could do more math. I'm so happy that he is just starting out on something that he has taken to so well, hopefully we'll just avoid any math drama all together with him at this rate.

With my daughter (3rd grade) we had started out with basic math workbooks from the store in Kindergarten and done fun math sheets and activities from 1+1+1=1 and other fun pinterest stuff.  It was going well. Then first grade we started doing MFW and we did the math that came with that and that's when things started to get wasn't just wasn't good either.  We did everything by the book, but it wasn't working, nothing would was like starting over every day.  And part of that is how my daughter learns and the reason we went away from "curriculum" and more into relaxed eclectic, or what I coined Classical Masonori Waldunschoolers. (that's Classical Conversations, Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Waldorf and Unschooling all blended up into a super yummy and healthy smoothie!) 
Anyways, then by second grade we started Singapore as recommeded by MFW and she liked the pictures and how there weren't too many questions per page so she wasn't visually overwhelmed, but I was floundering in trying to teach it because I'm not mathy...I'm a math phobe!  I'm still haunted be a reoccurring nightmare that I skipped my last college math class the last semester and remembered right before finals and am freaking out knowing there is NO way I can pass the final or make up for the all I missed.  I hate that dream!
Meanwhile I had began looking at other options more obsessively (at least that's probably how my husband would describe it when he turns on the computer and there's 30 tabs open in just 1 of the browsers and I'm reading and researching too much).  We were getting through the Singapore book, but when skills came back up, it was clear she wasn't getting it, it wasn't sticking.  AND with any math I did with her, she was always immediately overwhelmed when we started a new topic or idea and would shut down before even giving it a chance and I'd be trying to convince her how simple it was if she would just listen for a second.  
I really wanted to like Math U See or RightStart, those are such good programs but every time I looked at them, I just knew  it wasn't for us, she would shut down as soon as she see's that page of problems just as much as I felt overwhelmed when looking at all the stuff that came with Rigthstar.  Anything that looked like a textbook just was a very hard part of our day.  So that is how we just decided to embrace hands-on learning and dove into Living Math.  

But once we gave CTC Math a try, I was amazed.  My daughter would watch the short video lesson that is like an animated and narrated power point presentation and would just be engaged, nodding her head like "Oh OK that makes sense" and then as soon as the lesson was finished and Pat Murray says "alright we've completed our lesson and good luck with your questions." She would just go right in and confidently be ready to do her math, even if it was something totally new...something that would have her sliding out of her chair and onto the floor in a ball of misery, excuses and overwhelm in the past.  

Some key things that really make CTC Work for us are:
  • Only one question is displayed at a time
  • There is a progress bar at the top that moves each time they submit their answer so they get that immediate reward of seeing how much closer they are to being finished with questions.
  • Their score is kept showing their current percentage on that lesson as well as how many out of the total number of questions they have completed.
  • Being able to type in or select the answer takes away the added stress for those with Dyslexia or other similar issues as they can just focus on the math and not worry if they wrote 25 when they mean 52 or hand fatigue for those who grip too hard, then write wrong and can't erase their answers since they press the pencil SO HARD.
  • The lessons are concise and to the point but do a great job explaining and demonstrating the concept. (Charlotte Mason would approve)
  • You can select how many practice questions you want your child to do and what you require for a passing grade when you set up your students account. You could set it for only having to do 10 practice questions but require 90-100% accuracy or you could set it up however you want.  
  • There are diagnostic tests for each topic and you can select short (20 questions) Standard (30 questions) or comprehensive (40 questions)
  • Parent can assign tasks with deadlines if desired
  • Parent can edit the students account so if they want to delete a lesson and redo it to get a better score and award, you can.
  • Kids love checking their awards section and keeping track of how many platinum, gold and silver awards they have earned.
  • They enjoy the speed skills.
  • My daughter likes that after she completes a lesson, it shows how long it took her to complete the lesson, but that it doesn't show a timer while she's doing the lesson because any sort of timer is stressful and distracting for her.
  • mobility - we travel quite a bit and this is easy to access from anywhere without having to pack anything
  • Built in manipulatives that kids can move around on screen with either a mouse if using computer or with their finger if using an ipad to work out their problems and find the answer.
  • No teacher frustration...I sit with my kids as support but if they don't get it (which has only happened on rare occasion thus far) they can simply re-watch the video lesson and try again.  
  • Affordable! Having a family subscription with multiple kids with access to all grade levels is an incredible deal.  The subscription for the whole family (with the home school discount) costs the same as other curriculum, but just purchasing one grade level.  And you can easily move your kids up or down based on where they need to be without having to buy more curriculum/materials.  
  • This program is great for a variety of learning styles as it is Visual, Audio and Kinestetic.
  • Kids like the new feature of being able to customize the color scheme of their account.  My son has Red and Orange and my daughter Teal and Blue. Sometimes it's the little things, like having their own user name and password, their own color scheme, records and awards...they like it.
  • This program has been like a burden lifted for me as I feel very confident in how my kids are doing in math now and I can still add in living math activities to our day, but I don't HAVE to always be prepared.  
  • I have a two year old...I don't have time and patience for whining and tantrums and dawdling over math!  I haven't had any of those issues since we started CTC Math AND my daughter is retaining what she has learned.  

I think if Charlotte Mason were around today she would approve.

A couple Cons:

  • I wish it was easier to go back and change one question that as wrong so they don't have to have a lower award or redo the whole set of questions because of a simple mistake like bumping the submit button or a typo when they knew the right answer. Although it's taught them to really DOUBLE check before they click submit.  
  • The Times Tables Game and Speed Skills didn't work on the ipad but they just fixed that so that's been great!
  • They have great built in manipulatives but every once in a while you may want to actually take out a scrap paper and pencil for your child to work the question out on. It's not a big con but sometimes you are used to the manipulatives and then you'll get a question without any and my daughter will stare blankly. this isn;t really that much of a negative but more of an FYI.  Also one some of the money questions, I brought out some of our fake money for her to use because on some of those there were not built in manipulatives...however, I was happy to be able to bring in some other manipulatives that she could use so not a big deal.
  • I would love if they made an app for the ipad instead of doing it within the Safari browser.  Sometimes it can be a little glitchy on the ipad sometimes. It definitely works smoother on the computer.
Those are the only Cons I could think of and I was really trying to be honest and thorough but there are really no HUGE complaints I have.  I think this program is totally awesome and I envision us sticking with this all the way through.  And...I'm honestly getting more confident at math from watching his lessons with my kids! I struggled to do mental math...but I am getting much better now and I don't think I've had my college math class nightmare in a while now! :0

And I will say, we are not total unschoolers, but I think many unschoolers would enjoy having this as a math program as I know many people resonate with the ideology but then wonder..."what about math?" I think CTC Math could blend well with any full on homeschool style out there...except maybe not full on Waldorf because you can't watercolor paint on your computer screen! :)

Pea Gravel Courtyard Patio Makeover


It was a weedy mud pit that just always looked like a mess, and the small concrete patio that was by the doors was pretty stained and not looking too attractive either.  I love the look and sound of pea gravel underfoot AND it's a lot cheaper, easier, faster and more forgiving for a DIY patio than most other options.  I do love flagstone and beautiful hardscaping, but I LOVE the charm of the pea gravel so it was an easy route to go.  The pavers that line the pea gravel patio were reused from the messy, weedy ugly path that was going through this area.  There were lining the path and it was filled with large jagged white rock.

After 2 truckloads of deco pea gravel was dumped on our driveway...


Less than 24 hours later, Tyler and I had laid out landscape cover and he wheelbarrow-ed down all 2.5 tons of gravel himself!  Still need to do some things down there, it's pretty bare but we love the look down there so much better!

Friday, April 1, 2016


Sometimes a winter freeze comes along and it may feel cold, lonely and isolating...but the cold period is needed before the spring bulb can bloom and bring forth a fresh, new season.

"Live with a constant awareness of the ever changing world and your ever shifting self."-Mencius 

Sometimes we go through transitions and we may not know why, relationships, connections, attitudes, purpose, health, passions, jobs, whatever it may be.  You may have been going just fine in one direction and suddenly you don't know what direction you're going but you know it's not the direction you thought you were...things start changing and shifting for whatever reason. it can feel like a cold isolating heaviness when we don't understand what is going on behind the scenes, but if we trust and be patient, God works all things for our good, and suddenly, the ground begins to warm, we push up through the heaviness and we enter into a new season as beautiful spring flowers. The Spring Flowers are there to rise up, give hope and look around as honored guests and see what the master gardener is doing all around them as the rest of spring follows suite.

If you feel lost, in transition, discontent, unsettled or anxious ...start to warm the cold ground around you through trust and gratitude and then look up, push up, rise up and BLOOM!!!

Look up - acknowledge and praise your Lord
Push up - seek and ask with faith, confidence and quiet patience
Rise up - let go of your cares and trust with all your heart and know He is sovereign 
BLOOM- realize you are HIS beloved, that He IS working (no matter the outcome) and you are starting to see and realize it a little more each day as each petal begins to open as his plan unfolds to your view and then rejoice and praise in His work and sing for the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the skies, from the love which from our birth over and around us lies, Lord of all to thee we raise, this our hymn of grateful praise as you Whitness from the ground first hand the Lillies of the fields and the birds of the valleys being anxious for nothing.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Classical Conversations Cycle 1 week 15

We are alacking on timeline....(just keeping it real!)

1400s-Henry the Navigator established colonial rule in Africa leading to slave trade between the Portuguese and the Ashanti...

Reviewed and memorized song using the CC app and making up actions.  Continued reading The a Royal Diaries: Nzingha Warrioir Queen of Matamba.  It isn't about Henry the navigator but is about the villages working together to fight off the Portuguese in Angola, Africa set in the 1500s. (Bonus on this book both my daughter and son are enjoying hearing about the way the clans and villages are because they are relating it to Clash of Clans which they sometimes play...)

Each continents highest mountain 
We reviewed this video with actions on YouTube.

Then we practiced using skittles on a map.  They just needed to put the right mountain on the right continent.

Middle East

We rented a short video about Isresl from the library that I found to go along with this section.

And of course visited our MAPS book to explore that region.

English grammar
More helping verbs...we honestly don't get a lot out of this or do much with it...we just cover it and move on

Noun endings (1st Declension) 
Same thing...don't go too much into it we just learn it and move on and hopefully if they take Latin or when the learn other foreign languages later on this will help some things click. So for now just settin' the lil' pegs in place and keeping it low key!

Fine Arts
This weeks artist was Angelico, however we did not ever get a chance to get an Angelico inspired art project done like I had planned. (This isn't what we were going to do but it's a good idea you can do with kids for Angelico I showed them some pictures of Angelico paintings in an art book but that's as far as we got.  We did a lot of other drawing and some YouTube watercolor painting tutorials to practice for our nature journaling this week...CC is not the only thing we do and sometimes we do more with CC and sometimes we do less with it to make time for other projects or activities we are focused on.

Vase of Tulips by B age 5

Loose Watercolor Tulips by J age 8

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Best Ticket Deal for Sea World Orlando for a Family of 4 or more

Sea World 
best ticket deal

We just got back from a weekend trip to Orlando, FL for a gymnastics meet and wanting to do something else while we were there besides the meet and without spending a fortune, we researched out options and figured out the cheapest way to do sea world for 1 day.  Without getting suckered into a timeshare for $39 sea world orlando tickets, the next cheapest way to go for a family of 4 or more is to go online and buy a season pass for one person for $168.  If you have AAA, the price goes down to $140 ($149 after tax).  Buy this pass online before you go and bring the voucher with you for free parking (save $16).  Then all you have to do is go up to the self serve kiosks and scan your voucher to get your seaworld annual pass.  After the pass comes out, you can then use it to purchase up to 6 tickets for the rest of your family at 50% off. $49 for adults and $47 for children.  
If you have a family of 4, it would cost $79/ person if you buy the tickets on the website ahead of time or about $99 at the gate the day of.  

Cost Breakdown for a Family of 4

AT GATE PRICING (before tax) $396 plus $16 parking

ONLINE TICKETS (before tax)   $316 plus $16 parking

ANNUAL PASS purchased online before with 3 tickets purchased 50% off at gate (Before tax) $311 plus FREE PARKING and other discounts on food, merchandise and encounters in park.

ANNUALS PASS purchased through AAA online with 3 tickets purchased at 50% off at gate (before tax) $283 plus FREE PARKING and other discounts on food, merchandise and encounters in park.

This is the no gimmick best deal for going to Sea World for 1 day with a family of 4 or more!  

It's still not cheap, but it might be your cheapest way to spend a day at any theme park in Orlando, FL.  

Other things to keep in mind:

If you are military, you may be able to get free admission through Sea World's Waves of Honor Program. (although my brother who did this was not happy about the extent of personal information required to get his free ticket was worth it).

Preschool Fun Card for children under 5 who are residents of the state that Seaworld is located can get in free.

and FYI my one beef with the Annual Pass was that they scan your fingerprint at the entrance. Apparently they need to do this to verify that you are the season pass card holder on each visit, however I would think a photo ID should be sufficient.  I mean seriously?  I need to have my fingerprint scanned for a theme park?  I thought that was weird and was glad that the scanner was not working and so they had to let me in without getting my fingerprint on file.  I thought that was straight up stupid. 

All in all we had a great time and made lots of fun memories!  The Journey To Atlantis was the first real ride our kids have been on and it was so fun to experience that thrill with them, and even more so...since we got in park discounts with the annual pass, a couple of us did the dolphin encounter which was around $14 regularly but less after our discount (sorry can't remember the exact numbers there) but it was so amazing!  Holding onto a dolphin's flipper, petting it while making eye contact...simply amazing!

Our kids wanted to get splashed at the One Ocean Show with Shamu, we sat further back hoping to not get soaked and got there 25 minutes early and secured seats in the center of Shamu Stadium.  It was a great show however the kids kept complaining they weren't getting wet whenever the audience was getting splashed...until the end of this video clip.  ur 2.5 year old wasn't as excited about it as his siblings!  But he has since forgiven the Orca and enjoys his squeeky Orca Suvenier and talks about when he got splashed.

This was about 5 minutes after the One Ocean show....Getting splashed by an Orca was just too much!  Time for a nap in the ERGO!  He woke up later in the middle of Turtle Trek 3-D adventure and was very happy!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Classical Conversations Week 14

Ok I am way behind in posting but life happens!


Went over Timeline Song and History Sentance.

Tell me about the Songhai.

Here are our actions that we came up with to go with week 14 History Sentance.

And we read through this book a bit.


We covered Ancient Africa and made up a little rhythm to say it to.

Followed by looking in our MAPS book and any corresponding sheets in the MAPS activity book related to Africa.

Continued reading Nzingha, Warrior Queen of Matamba Angola, Africa 1595, from The Royal Diaries series. (Started to compliment week 13 geography of Western Africa.

We also picked up this book from the library.


Linear Equivalents-we didn't do anything extra really, just covered it and used a ruler to compare centimeters to inches and 12 inches = 1 foot.  It was very cold otherwise we would have gone for a walk at a park and maybe walk/ride scooters around the track for a mile.  We will probably do this when it warms up.

We are doing CTC Math now and the kids are loving it and I just feel such a relief and joy over how that is going!  We will still incorporate living math, which was going really well but required much more of me as far as preparing, planning etc and while I was enjoying that and will continue, it just takes the pressure off knowing we can do that more for enrichment than our core since they have taken such a liking to CTC Math and are excited to zoom through it, competing with eachother to get more platinum certificates and get to the next grade level since a CTC Math membership provides access to all grade levels from K-12.

Nothing fancy here.  Just went over the helping verbs together.

Our frog puppet "Latin Leo" helps teach the Latin.

We also got a little extra Latin lesson this week reading from Classic Myths to Read Aloud.  Often the end of a story will include a short paragraph about the meaning and origin of a certain word we use today. We started out with Greek and Roman Gods at the beginning of this cycle and also to incorporate some of Ambleside Online into our study, year 3 include covering Greek Mythology so we haven't left that behind.


Types of Rocks: Igneous, Sedimentary, Metamorphic. 

We turned to one of our favorite books Nature Anatomy on the section about types of rocks and the rock cycle.  The kids copied the illustration of the rock cycle from the book into their nature journals. We also used the book to identify some of our rock collection and talked about our granite countertops.

Science kits with rocks and earth science are great this week.

We used the book Discovering Great Artists and did a project based on Ghibertti.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Living Math

This year as I prayfully researched all the great homeschool math programs out there, I could not settle on one.  When I embarked on this homeschool journey and originally started reading and researching I really gravitated towards the Charlotte Mason living as well as the words of John Holt like this gem...

Kindergarten with 1 child was fun and easy with a napping toddler but come first grade and a third baby on the way, I started to feel pressure to make sure I was doing "real school" with her.  So I bought an open and go boxer curriculum and signed up for Classical Conversations.  However, other than feeling good that I had something "to show" for our days in published bound books and folders...that was about it.  I got so caught up in trying to do school and get it all done and forgetting one main reason we were led to homeschool in the first place!  My daughter is smart but it was obvious in preschool she wasn't a typical student who fit the classroom mold and we thought she would do better in a more relaxed , flexible environment with the freedom to cater to her learning style.  However, teaching her systematically during "school time" at home wasn't helping her that much, but more just making me feel like the worst teacher and worst parent in the world.  It would take do long to get through simple assignments that I was resenting her for taking up so much of my time in which I had to keep distracting the younger ones.  All in all...things were not right.  I had 2 little ones but the oldest was taking up all my time and energy and although I had planned to do more preschool activities with my son, he really ended up just doing puzzles or whatever off to the side because I had to be on top of my daughter the whole time!  It wasn't fair to anyone and by the time we got through our day I was spent and had no interest in engaging with them to do all the fun creative things that I really wanted to do.  The worst part was the resentment...why couldn't she just copy 5 words without taking an hour and all my emotional energy? Why couldn't she just remember what we had already learned? How can we keep going on in our curriculum when she keeps forgetting what's 7+2 and can't figure it out after a year of practicing it? I just wanted to give up (started learning about dyslexia).

Then I came across a video by Sandra Dodd, an unschooling advocate and she was answering the question of how much time do I need to give to my kids each day and she drew a simple graph...

Basically the youngest need the most mom time so no wonder doing a traditional homeschool curriculum felt wrong, I was spending my time backwards!  How often on homeschool pages do you see the question "what do I do with my little ones while we are doing school time?"  Now I'm not a full blown unschooler but leaning that way gives our family lots of grace to spend our days in a meaningful purposeful way together, without the stress that can lead to resenting the older children and having them under constant pressure while not spending enough time with the littles.  It allows us to improvise and do more learning all together with everyone included, which you will see in our examples of living math further down this post. And yes as I realized this mom time problem, I did consider and pray about putting my kids in school, but that wasn't the answer so last year I still struggled to let go of traditional school style and culture around education and step into the unknown so I bought the 2nd grade curriculum.  It was actually going pretty good a little easier than the year before as kids mature a little more each year but  something still wasn't jiving.

Sandra Dodd also said don't let your home become some miniature copy of a school...which resonated with me and the first book on homeschooling I ever read, The Thomas Jefferson Education.  I just kept coming across all these reminders of the original things The Lord had brought me to in my original quest into homeschooling but had forgotten due to insecurity and worrying what other people think...(a major weakness I have been overcoming).  She talked about creating and maintaining an environment where natural learning can thrive, creating a nest where it's not just the home environment but the family relationships within the home are crucial.  She encourages parents to learn about learning, not about school, but how real natural learning happens.  Be their partner (and mentor as Thomas Jefferson Ed  puts it) not their adversary.  Encourage, facilitate and assist.  See all that is good about your child (which I was having a hard time doing with the way I was doing school with her).  Be the kind of person you want your child to be, nurture your own curiosity and joy, find gratitude and abundance in your life....don't do what you don't understand, read a little, try a little wait a while, read a little more, try a little more, wait a while more...don't pull your plants up by the roots to see if they are growing.    That's not good for any plants or any children.  Be patient and trust that learning can happen if you give it time and space. Observe your children.  Are they calm? Happy? Curious and interestied in things? Don't mar their calm or happiness with arbitrary limits, shame or pressure.  Learning can't happen when people feel afraid or hungry so feed your children happily, share food and smiles and laughter. Watch movies and listen to music together, explore...follow information trails, play, make connections and touch your children sweetly, smell their heads, relax into an appreciation of each child in your life.  If you can envision the kind if relationship and life of learning you want to have then every time you make a choice, choose the one that takes you nearer to that goal.  Learn to make many choices a day and when possible choose the more loving, peaceful options.  Choose to make your life more positive and less negative.  Choose optimism, choose joy. Create good memories with your children.  Look directly at your children without filters or labels.  Babies are born whole people, help then to grow up and remain whole people, unmared by shame...paraphrased from Doing Unschooling Right by Sandra Dodd.  

As I've mentioned in other posts, I didn't feel led to sign up for Classical Conversations this year and my kids didn't seem to care but they did request to do the memory work at home.  My daughter loves learning through song and hand motions so we decided to do CC at home along with following Ambleside Online for a guide for each grade, leaving plenty of space for project based learning and to just be curious and spend time in the moment together, and being able to seize the teachable moments in a natural, unforced, meaningful way.  This year has been our most productive by far but I was still having my daughter do her Singapore math...that is the area I felt the least confident and bringing to life the way I was everything else.  

I poured over homeschool math options and was praying and seeking, but I couldn't settle on any one curriculum, even though I know they are great.  I knew in my head which math curriculums I liked and thought would fit our family but in my heart, I couldn't to it.  Why? I kept seeking and praying.  Then The Lord brought me to info about living math.  Well I'm not good at math so how can I teach without a textbook???  This seemed like more work for me not less! Shouldn't I just do Teaching Textbooks or Math U See?  Well who knows what the future holds but the answer and conclusion I came to was Living Math.  This means I have to face my insecurities, look at the how and why and incorporate what needs to be learned in hands on, fun ways.  Followed by some worksheet and or online practice after the concept is understood through hands on play, activities or life experience. This was a definite experience in learning to read a little, try a little, trust and see.  What I've found is that we can actually ENJOY Math together and it is sticking better than when we just stuck to the workbooks.  Also it's easy to include everyone and then take the concept further with my oldest while my Kingergarteb age son is still getting to play around and be introduced to math concepts beyond his level but enjoying it because we are having fun.  There is a website callee Living Math that I found the book Family Math and have been enjoying using that.  We also having been purchasing used through amazon or borrowing from library living math books. For worksheet practice we use either the math section of the big Brain Quest workbooks by grade or Math Mammoth worksheets, among other sources and practice online using websites like ixl, matific, starfall, and xtramath.  But mostly we are learning through hands on projects, games, role play, or just living and bringing out the math in our daily activities or things we cone across.

Here are a couple of the fun times and ways we've encorporated living math, just a sample not exhaustive of every single thing we do :) My point in sharing is to inspire some ideas and feeling freedom to step outside the box a bit if traditional methods are working as well as you like.  The great thing about homeschooling these days is we have do much information and resources at our fingertips and therefor can totally individualize and cater to our individual family needs and styles!

Making up stories for Remembering Odd and Even Numbers

Place Value

We love playing the game Dino tracks.  You can make the game more advanced with the playing cards giving lots of opportunity for more advanced math thinking or keep it simple to just becoming familiar with place value.

Millions of Cats - we borrow from the library frequently the book and audio cd set because they love this one! Especially my 5 year old! Now he's ways he can tell me how much he loves me first with a hundred much, then a thousand much up to millions, billions, trillions and finally infinity and beyond ;)

Geometry -Tangrams 

Cut out Tangram pieces using pattern and activity ideas from Family Math.  My kids kept going back to that book and their Tangrams daily for over a week on their own, fascinated by the puzzle and the culture, architecture and clothing in the book.

Wood Pattern Blocks


The Book Nature Math and the section about shapes and patterns in nature.

Symmetry, Mirror Image, Patterns Measurement and Perimiter

Concentric Circles-studying patterns and shapes in nature from the book Nature Math

Familiarity with a Grid
This game from Family math called Animal Crossing

Battleships - Santa brought it for Christmas

Card games such as war and they are starting to learn poker (with their dad) soon we will introduce the chips just for family fun no real money...not trying to teach gambling but it is fun playing some Texas Hold'em at a family gathering! The chips make it fun even if theirs no real money involved)

Also a print out activity from one plus one plus one equals one with an alligator mouth for the > and < symbols for practicing.   

All the skip counting songs from Classicsl Conversations memorized up through the 15s has made multiplication so much easier to learn!  

Little homemade Montessori multiplication grids are great too

This monster dice game is great for practicing addition, subtraction , multiplication or division 

Critical Thinking, Memory, Strategy
Playing Poker and learning/memorizing the different versions, rules, hands while having fun and bonding with dad!

Making Donuts for Division and Fractions 
we have 12 donuts and can make as many toppings as you like as long as we make an equal amount of each type. You want 3 toppings? Ok then how many donuts will be in each group? What if we did only 2 types of toppings? How many donuts in each group? What if we do 4? Etc?  Also when they are measuring ingredients I often hand them a smaller measuring cup so they have to figure out how many "scoops" of 1/3 cup to make 1 cup like the recipe says.  Casually practicing division and fractions while having fun making donuts! 

Money- counting, dividing, percentage, and life skills money management 

Counting out all the money and change, making dollars with different coin combinations of $0.25.  Introduce percentage and how to figure out 10%.  (We recently  did hymn study of Because I Have Been Given Much- not intentionally but it worked out to a good intro o this).  After taking out 10%, divide money in half, or 50% for spending and 50% for saving.  Child then has to work out how to divide the money into each jar.  We wrote in the too lid with a chalkboard marker how much is currently in each jar so we can easily erase and change the number as needed for keeping track.  I told my daughter she can give her money however she wants, to church, orphans, missions, or other charity collection boxes and coin rolling things at stores or if she knows of anyone she wants to give to.

For all these resources and more great living math resources, check out my Living Math Shop.