Browsing the blog archives for September, 2013.

3rd Grade This Year

California, Homeschooling, Kids

Starting tomorrow, I’m going to get into the spirit of Halloween and celebrate by counting down the days with silly and only slightly scary ideas. Before we get to that though, I want to do a little homeschool catch up post on what structure we’re working with in 3rd grade this year. Today is our 40th day of school for 2013/2014. I only know because we’re going to celebrate the 100th day of school this year and I figured that we should be counting so the days don’t get away from me. This will be our second full year homeschooling and I really feel like I have a better way of running our days than I did when we started. This was our schedule and our materials last year.

We work a standard schedule 5 days a week, taking Wednesdays and Saturdays off, though the weekend is usually when our 8th grader reads his assigned literature and our 3rd grader finishes all her art.

Since our youngest isn’t 5 yet, she can’t be enrolled in the same homeschooling program as our other two children. Obviously, she can still do a kinder program at home with me. The program I’ve set up for her is very similar to the junior kindergarten program in Ontario, it needs it’s own post. Our 8th grader works on a three classes per semester schedule and since it is technically an independent study program, he also has options open to add more and more onto what was assigned. I’m really impressed with the way he has chosen to build onto this system, and this will get it’s own post as well. For now though, the grade I think I end up spending the most combined hours on…3rd.

3rd Grade
8:00am – 8:45am Language Arts – Spelling / Reading
8:45am – 9:30am Language Arts – Grammar, Reading Response
9:30am – 9:45am first break
9:45am – 10:45am Math
10:45am – 11:45am Lunch
11:45am – 12:45pm Social Science or Science
12:45pm – 1:45pm Math or Language Arts Homework
1:45pm – 2:05pm Cursive
2:05pm – 3:00pm Art or Music
3:00pm – 4:30pm FREE TIME 🙂
4:30pm – 6:30pm PE (swimming, dance/ballet)

Our 3rd grader is in her second year in the primary program and I really like the way it is laid out. Essentially, we work on a 5 day schedule and hand in the previous week’s work mid-week. We try to stay a day or two ahead of schedule as a buffer in case something comes up and of course something usually does so I try not to deviate from the schedule too often. As far as how each class breaks down, here is a general idea. Aside from the classes listed, our 15 minute breaks are spent however they choose to use them. Sometimes they’ll all go outside, sometimes they’ll all relax in the living room for a while and sometimes they all scatter and do different things. Lunch is almost always taken as a picnic poolside. Some days it is too cool to go to the pool, but it’s not like that enough days in a row to make it off limits for a prolonged period so they get to have a nice break mid-day. On days when it is too cool for the pool we have a backyard picnic instead. Just the concept of not having to think about school for an hour, and eat food you love with your siblings, preferably outside.

Language Arts – Spelling / Reading – 45 minutes
Each day, we start with the vocabulary words for the week by going over their spelling, definitions and using them in context. We do a pretest on Mondays and a spelling test on Fridays. There are also usually 4 or 5 worksheets related to our spelling words and the phonics we are working on and we do those now. She reads aloud the selection for the day and we go over the reading comprehension for it. There are usually a few worksheets we will do for this portion as well.

Language Arts – Grammar, Reading Response – 45 minutes
We have daily language activities we complete for grammar and the flow on my end goes; introduce the concept, teach the concept, review and practice, review and proofread, and then on Fridays I assess and reteach. There are always worksheets for grammar and we also do a daily composition book prompt and a paragraph practice exercise that we usually do twice a week.

Math – 60 minutes
Generally speaking, we introduce a concept each day that builds on what we did the previous day. The workload is usually about 20-30 questions in the textbook and about 15 questions on an accompanying homework sheet. Throughout the math text there are pages with mini tests, prompts to review work from the previous topics, and opportunities to reteach. We use the time left at the end of the formal lesson to go back and cover these extras to both keep older lessons fresh and to practice the new lessons until they become simple.

Social Science – 60 minutes
The curriculum we follow outlines one chapter a week in the textbook. The first day she reads the chapter aloud, goes over the captions, photos, charts and additional information and then we do the lesson review. The second day there is an art activity where the lesson is made creative, the third day the lesson is extended with a personalized activity. The fourth day is a writing activity or a skillbuilder activity that relates to things like map reading and finding information. The fifth day is used either for assessment or to work through a primary grades history of the United States program we have. There are also assigned worksheets for each lesson, two of them relate directly to the lesson, and two additional ones are for related reading comprehension and new related vocabulary.

Science – 60 minutes
Much like the social science curriculum, the outline for this program is one chapter per week, and there is plenty to build on in the text. We go over the whole chapter on the first day and do the lesson review. The following day and often also the day after we devote to that week’s experiment. This year we are also working with a second text that teaches different concepts from the main text. It’s neat to have a secondary lesson every week, and the homework completion for that one is one review page a week, usually no more than 5 questions, but her responses have to be detailed.

Math / Language Arts Homework – 60 minutes
This block of time is not always necessary. Sometimes, a new math concept will take a little longer to fully grasp and that’s more than understandable, it’s expected and totally normal. Other times, there is just a lot of writing to be done in the language arts program and in order to keep her writing neat she can’t rush though it so it can be time consuming. This period is just used to catch up on any class that had unfinished work after we moved on to the next. Some days there is no unfinished work. In that case we usually just work for an hour on whatever comes next in any subject she wants.

Cursive – 20 minutes
I assign one cursive writing page per day. Most of the time there are two letters on each page, with either a few words or even a phrase to write in cursive. Sometimes we’ll do a review of words we know by handwriting sentences with the letters she has learned.

Art – 55 minutes
We have been working through a really fun 3rd grade art program this year and so far she loves it. She has had to draw the same picture twice once with cool colors and once with warm colors, we’ve made air drying clay and she’s used it to make Native American style bowls and Greek style vases. She has made collages and worked with watercolors. There is so much going on in this program it deserves a post of it’s own! This week coming up she will be working a crayon resist project, create Greek theater masks and make a Romain coin!

Music – 55 minutes
I’m not a big fan of the recorder, but I appreciate that it is an approachable way to get kids to learn the basics of sheet music. Once they have that down we’ll move onto the piano, but for now we’re working through Recorder Karate, which is a program that relates songs for the recorder of increasing difficulty to karate belt levels. So first you learn the sheet music for the notes, then you practice the song and once a week she has to perform that week’s song to reach the next belt level. It’s actually pretty fun and all three of them try!

Free Time – 90 minutes
This is their anything (within reason) goes time between finishing school for the day and going to their physical programs of choice. Our 3rd grader is in dance and she is at the studio 5 days a week, since our other children are also involved in after school activities as well, they’re off to drop off and pick up even if they are not doing anything that afternoon. Since this block of time is right after art, she will often just keep working on whatever she’s working on that day or if she’s finished but still feels like being creative she will continue to paint or sculpt or paper mache it up.

There is always room for tweaking and of course we take a lot of field trips that we sometimes try to work into the programs we’re teaching from but we also just go on field trips to learn things for the sake of learning them. We also do one library day a week and now that she’s learned how to log in and request books from other branches she’s well on her way to reading every Nancy Drew in the County of Los Angeles Pubic Library system.

The 8th grade and kindergarten programs have been in full swing for the last 40 days as well and they are both also a lot of fun and have been working out well for each child and thankfully for me as well!

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Vegan Chocolate Bites


Sometimes I come across a recipe that’s very vegany and it tastes like rocks and sticks and dirt. Usually, I’ll eat it anyway because I know it’s good for me and really, vegan kitchen fails can be pretty pricey!

This one though, it’s not at all like rocks or sticks or dirt! It’s actually sweet and sort of chocolatey! It’s also not pricey if you have most of these ingredients on hand and there are plenty of subs if you don’t. They’re also really, really, really easy to make. Just mix some stuff, then toss some stuff in the food processor, the combine both mixtures and shape into balls (or whatever).

Vegan Chocolate Bites
2 ripe bananas
4 tablespoons almond butter (any kind of nut butter will work really)
4 tablespoons agave (or sugar is fine too)
2 tablespoons wheat germ (or flax if you want)
1/2 cup raw oats
1 cup dates
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup almonds
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup raw cocoa

Vegan Chocolate Bites
Mash the bananas and mix with the almond butter, agave, wheat germ and oats.
Vegan Chocolate Bites
In the food processor, mix the rest of the ingredients until they’re all mashed together.

Vegan Chocolate Bites

Now just shape into balls and leave in the fridge for a few hours to set up. Voila!

Vegan Chocolate Bites
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Super Easy Apple Dumplings


Generally, when I come across a recipe that uses something premade in it, I shy away from it. Mostly because I’m a full blown bit of a kitchen snob. However, I’m madly in love with Miss Ree Drummond and she uses a very popular refrigerated dough in these dumplings so I went with it and honestly? They’re so so good, it doesn’t even matter. Also? This recipe is totally weird but I trusted it and my neighbors loved them too! In her description about these dumplings, The Pioneer Woman says she had to toss the rest of the tray after trying one (and then another and another). That’s pretty much what happened to me as well, but since we don’t live in the woods anymore I just packed up the rest and took them to my neighbors.

Ok so I classified this recipe as ‘totally weird’ because it involves two sticks of butter, refrigerator crescent roll dough AND a can of Mountain Dew. I know, right?! It feels so wrong, but it’s crazy amazing.

Super Easy Apple Dumplings

via The Pioneer Woman

2 Granny Smith Apples
2 8oz cans refrigerated crescent roll dough
2 sticks butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
cinnamon (enough to cover)
1 12oz can Mountain Dew

Super Easy Apple Dumplings

So first, butter up your baking pan and cut your apples into equal slices and wrap each one in a crescent roll segment. Arrange the wrapped apple slices in the buttered pan.

Super Easy Apple Dumplings

Make the first part of the sauce by melting the butter and adding the sugar and vanilla but don’t stir it much, you want it to have some sugar chunks. Now, pour the butter mixture all over the prepared apple crescents. Theeeeeen, put the Mountain Dew on it. I know, I know. Just just do it, I swear. It looks very, very wrong at this point. I was a little iffy about putting it in the oven, but I did. So glad I did. Sprinkle with cinnamon and bake at 350 for about 30 – 45 minutes. Your house will smell alarmingly good.

Super Easy Apple Dumplings

Just look at this thing!! It’s runnier than you probably think it should be, but don’t worry about it. Lift them out one at a time and spoon some of the sauce over top.

Super Easy Apple Dumplings

The butter and the soda make the bottom of each dumpling soft and mushy in the best possible way. They are not crescent roll-esque at all – butter and soda and heat magically transformed them into dumplings. You can add some ice cream if you must, but the built in sauce is awesome enough!

Super Easy Apple Dumplings
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Alphabet Tree for Kindergarten Sight Words

Homeschooling, Kids

When we kicked off our 2013/2014 year of homeschooling, we went with the kinder program for our 4 year old, and I’m really excited about it. Having the alphabet on the wall in the kitchen helped her to learn all the letters, so having the words we are working on up on the wall should help her to learn those, too. I have seen other, smaller alphabet tree activities like this one, this one, and this one. When I was a kid, I had a small collection of Leo Lionni books and The Alphabet Tree was my favorite. Clearly, I was inspired by this book!

The tree itself is just construction paper blue tacked to the wall, and I used these adhesive foam letters for the words. I have random letters here and there and also the words cute, candy, play, helpful, funny and sunshine. I made this to have a fun place to display the words we are working on so she can see them everyday. I didn’t want o ruin the construction paper and constantly having to repair it, so I laminated five pages of construction paper – four for the tree part and one on the trunk. Each new word that she works on will go up in the tree and once she learns them we’ll put them in a basket and add new ones.

Alphabet Tree for Kindergarten Sight Words
Alphabet Tree for Kindergarten Sight Words
Alphabet Tree for Kindergarten Sight Words
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Galavanting Around Los Angeles

California, Kids

My husband’s parent’s visited for almost two weeks, it was their second visit since we moved to LA and we had such a wonderful time! Last year we took them to Disneyland, some of our favorite parks, Hollywood and a few of our favorite local places. After another year of homeschooling (and another year of living here) we took them to a totally different set of places. We went to Santa Monica because it’s the kid’s favorite place and we showed off the Heal the Bay Aquarium, Venice Beach, Aquarium of the Pacific, Crafted at the Port of LA, The California Science Center, The La Brea Tar Pits and The LA Zoo. We touched moon jellyfish, starfish, anemones, urchins, hammerhead sharks, and sting rays! The kids used a pulley system to lift a truck and we all saw the space shuttle Endevour! We also of course watched Wee One #1 do his jiujitsu classes and Wee One #2 do her dance lessons and Wee One #3 was more than happy to show them around one of her favorite places, the Aquarium of the Pacific. I’m still recovering from it all, but it was so great. There was a lot of barbecuing together, late nights full of laughter and lazy mornings full of sleeping in. My husband and I even managed to get out one night with our friends to a fair. We fit school in around all the adventuring and the kids got to bring their grandparents to homeschool check in day!

Megan, over at Brassy Apple mentioned on Facebook last week that there are 15 Saturdays until Christmas. I? Exploded. I’m just starting to get hyped about Halloween! It does remind me that there is a lot of knitting and cross stitching to be done so maybe I should stop drooling over patterns on Ravelry and get knitting!

Learning about seahorses at Heal the Bay Aquarium
Venice boardwalk
Touching moon jellyfish at The Aquarium of the Pacific
Starfish and a sea cucumber at The Aquarium of the Pacific
Touching sting rays at The Aquarium of the Pacific
Crafted at the Port of LA
Lomita fair
LA Zoo

Learning about seahorses at Heal the Bay Aquarium, Venice Beach, Touching moon jellyfish, starfish, a sea cucumber and a sting ray at Aquarium of the Pacific, 2 Market Street cookie cutter shop at Crafted at the Port of LA, the LA Zoo, Lomita fair, (not so) Wee One #1 training at jiujitsu, and Wee One #2 mastering her middle splits!

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